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Assessing Scientific Claims In Print Ads that Promote Cosmetics: How Consumers Perceive Cosmeceutical Claims


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The area of scientific-related claims in advertising is ripe for additional investigative endeavor. This article aims to access the nature and potential deceptiveness of scientific-related claims that appear in cosmetics advertising. To examine these claims, the authors used perceptions of actual cosmetics consumers as well as of licensed physicians. The findings suggest that the decision making of cosmetics consumers could be enhanced by the addition to cosmetics advertising of information about certain cosmetics claims.
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DOI: 10.2501/JAR-2018-048 December 2019 JOURNAL OF ADVERTISING RESEARCH 466
encompass the scope of claim types that existed
(Fowler et al., 2015). The authors also determined
that certain of their claim categories more likely
might be deemed misleading or deceptive. In gen-
eral, more claims of all types were viewed as evid-
encing misleading or deceptive tendencies than
were perceived as acceptable, at least from the per-
spective of consumers of these products. Cosmetic
claims declaring superiority aributes likely were
considered untrue, whereas claims with a scientic
orientation were deemed as being vague or omit-
ting information that was essential for consumers
to comprehend fully the meaning and connotation
of the claim.
That article also mentioned a specic type of
cosmetics claim (perhaps of a scientic nature) that
may be particularly troublesome to consumers:
cosmeceuticals. Cosmeceutical claims infer that the
cosmetics has aractiveness-enhancement benets
as well as implying (but not fully substantiating)
that the alleged truthfulness of the cosmetics has
The study of advertising claims has a rich and
extensive research tradition. Environmental advert-
ising claims have been examined in a variety of con-
texts. Researchers, for example, have studied the
identication of specic types of green claims that
may be represented in environmentally oriented
advertisements as well as the potential for these
claims to be perceived as misleading or deceptive
(Carlson, Grove, and Kangun, 1993; Cummins,
Reilly, Carlson, Grove, et al., 2014).
More recently, researchers also have begun
investigating claims appearing in cosmetics advert-
ising. Their objective again is to identify the types
of claims that characterize cosmetics advertising
as well as consumers’ tendency to perceive such
claims as misleading or deceptive (Fowler, Reisen-
wi, and Carlson, 2015).
One study suggested that cosmetics claims
indeed were classiable; these authors developed
six categories of cosmetics claims that seemed to
Assessing Scientific Claims
In Print Ads that Promote Cosmetics
How Consumers Perceive
Cosmeceutical Claims
Valdosta State University
University of Nebraska—
Institute of Management
Technology, Ghaziabad
Submitted February 7, 2017;
revised April 13, 2018;
accepted April 17, 2018;
published online January 8, 2019
The area of scientific-related claims in advertising is ripe for additional investigative
endeavor. This article aims to access the nature and potential deceptiveness of scientific-
related claims that appear in cosmetics advertising. To examine these claims, the authors
used perceptions of actual cosmetics consumers as well as of licensed physicians. The
findings suggest that the decision making of cosmetics consumers could be enhanced by
the addition to cosmetics advertising of information about certain cosmetics claims.
The copy for cosmetics advertising campaigns should be aligned with the target audience’s
awareness of scientific-related terms presented in the print advertisements.
Advertisers may need to augment or even avoid certain scientific-related terms, because such
claims more likely will be perceived to be misleading or deceptive by cosmetics consumers.
Both typical cosmetics consumers and licensed physicians believe some forms of cosmetics claims
do not aid consumer decision making.
a scientic or pharmaceutical basis (Fowler et al., 2015). “Cosme-
ceutical” is a hybrid expression derived from the combination of
cosmetics and pharmaceutical information (Fowler et al., 2015).
According to Merriam-Webster (2017), “cosmeceutical” is dened
as a cosmetics preparation that has pharmaceutical properties.
For instance, benzoyl peroxide and retinol are cosmetics ingredi-
ents that possess both cosmetics and pharmaceutical properties
(Mukherjee, Date, Patravale, Korting, et al., 2006). Additionally, if
a product is labeled with seemingly natural ingredients, such as
botanical components, marine extracts, or vitamins, it still should
be considered as a cosmeceutical (Jackson-Cannady, 2017).
The medical community acknowledges that cosmetics products
have been marketed as cosmetics but reportedly also contain bio-
logically active ingredients. Examples include antiwrinkle skin
creams with ingredients such as alpha lipoic acid and dimethyl-
aminoethanol (MedicineNet, 2017). Marie Jhin, MD, noted that
even though cosmeceuticals may contain active medical ingredi-
ents that could be benecial in some way, consumers of these
products also need to realize that cosmeceuticals have not under-
gone rigorous investigation by the U.S. Food and Drug Adminis-
tration (FDA) (Jackson-Cannady, 2017). Consequently, consumers
can assume neither the truthfulness of cosmeceutical claims nor
the benets of these products.
Because cosmeceutical claims appear to contain properties of
both cosmetics and pharmaceuticals, they may represent a gray
area in that such claims are not entirely classiable as cosmet-
ics or as pharmaceuticals (Fowler et al., 2015). The jurisdiction
domain applicable to cosmeceuticals is unclear. That is, if cosme-
ceuticals were viewed strictly as pharmaceuticals, then the FDA
could exert authority over the potentially misleading or deceptive
nature of these claims. The cosmetics industry, however, prefers
that such claims be viewed as “natural” (i.e., not a drug), thereby
avoiding FDA supervision even though the provided claim sub-
stantiation often is based on incomplete or insucient testing
(Fowler et al., 2015).
Certain companies, however, have claimed not only that their
cosmetics products will enhance a person’s appearance but that
their products also will make structural changes to a consumer’s
skin and even prevent or treat some medical conditions (FDA,
2017). “Consumers need to know that these drug claims have
not been proven to the F.D.A. when they are making a decision
to purchase one of these products,” said Linda M. Ka, MD, the
director of the FDA’s Oce of Cosmetics and Colors (FDA, 2017).
Although the FDA issued warning leers to some cosmetics com-
panies about their products in 2016 (e.g., Zo Skin Health Group
and Ageless Aesthetic, LLC; FDA, 2017), the issue is complex. Jane
Leidkka, MD, a dermatologist at the FDA, explained that although
the FDA regulates many skin creams and lotions as drugs, some
cosmetics skin products might be making drug claims that have not
been evaluated by the FDA (FDA, 2017).
How cosmeceuticals and the advertising of these products
should be evaluated is clouded further by the reality that the
United States is one of only two nations that allow direct-to-con-
sumer pharmaceutical advertising. This is perhaps indicative of a
less intrusive regulatory environment in the United States regard-
ing these products. Advertising of pharmaceutical products to
consumers is a sizeable and rapidly growing phenomenon in the
United States (DeLorme, Huh, and Reid, 2006), so consumers may
have to proceed with lile direction and concomitant caution when
consuming these products.
Perhaps most important, cosmeceutical-product consumers
also want more information in the claims; research has shown
that the informational worth of a cosmeceutical advertising claim
is the most important determinant of whether consumers try the
advertised cosmeceutical product (Meng and Pan, 2012). Further
investigation of the nature and scope of cosmeceutical advertising
claims thus seems warranted, especially to determine the degree
to which consumers’ informational needs are being met. Do these
claims appear frequently in advertisements, and, if so, how might
they be described in terms of their dominant and recurrent char-
acteristics? How will consumers of these products likely perceive
these claims?
Previous work by two of the present authors (Fowler et al., 2015)
made mention of the dilemma surrounding cosmeceutical advert-
ising claims. That work, however, did not investigate issues al-
iated with cosmeceutical claims. Such information might provide
additional needed background for consumers as well as the FDA
and other public policy makers to make beer, more informed
decisions about these claims and their aliated products.
Even though cosmeceuticals may
contain active medical ingredients
that could be beneficial in some way,
consumers of these products also need
to realize that cosmeceuticals have not
undergone rigorous investigation by the
U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The area of cosmeceutical claims appears to be ripe for addi-
tional investigative endeavor. The purpose of this article con-
sequently is to assess the nature of cosmeceutical claims as well
as to explore potential implications that may arise from their
examination. Regarding the laer, the authors also investigated
whether cosmeceutical claims are susceptible to failing as the
type of information sources needed and expected by consumers
to enhance decision making. This article continues by reviewing
relevant research streams.
Scientific-Related Claims and Cosmeceuticals
The traditional model of science communication includes the idea
that popularization is a diusion process in which scientic or
technical information is disseminated to broad, uninformed pub-
lics (Lewenstein, 1995). One form of scientic language is called
“pseudoscientic language.” “Pseudoscientic,” as dened by
the Oxford English Dictionary, is “a collection of beliefs or practices
mistakenly regarded as being based on scientic method” (Oxford
English Dictionary, 2017).
Pseudoscientic terms are used in advertising copy as a per-
suasive means to convince consumers of product eectiveness
(Ringrow, 2014). The increased usage of pseudoscientic language
is due at least partially to the use of such language in cosmeceut-
ical-product advertising (i.e., cosmetics products that are blen-
ded with pharmaceuticals; Ringrow, 2014). Another variation in
advertising of pseudoscientic language is pseudoscientic jargon,
which, although uncommon to ordinary consumers, is also devoid
of genuine scientic meaning (Chaudhuri and Laha, 2005). This
type of advertising language also is found in technical and cos-
metics products and frequently is used in advertising copy blocks
(Meeds, 2004).
Scientic-related language is dened in a broad sense as “com-
munication amongst specialists” (Arroyo, 2013, p. 199). Its spe-
cicity is reected in a number of distinctive features that could
be summarized as
brevity (a conscious aempt to do away with distortions in the
information conveyed),
accuracy (the nature of scientic topics tends to avoid both
semantic and conceptual ambiguity), and
objectivity (impartially supported by evidence; Posteguillo
Gómez, 2000; Barras, 1978; Cabre, 1999; Fuertes Olivera, 2007).
Pérez-Llantada (2012) observed that brevity and accuracy in
scientic discourse involve the use of complex meanings (e.g.,
retinol is used to treat and prevent Vitamin A deciency and
Unlike pseudoscientic terms, scientic language is completely
understandable only to peer-colleagues in a discipline, and the
terminology is not meant for nonspecialists (Arroyo, 2013). There
has been an increase in the frequency of scientic language in the
cosmetics industry, and herein lies the problem alluded to in pre-
vious work (Arroyo, 2013): Some language used in cosmeceutical
advertisements directed at consumers still may feature scientic
There is much debate on how scientic language inuences
consumers (Jackson-Cannady, 2017). Incorporation of such lan-
guage in beauty advertising may be problematic because it is not
clear how such constructions aect consumers’ perceptions of
the product or the advertisement (Ringrow, 2014). Dermatologist
Marie Jhin, MD, noted, “The most important thing consumers
need to realize is that cosmeceuticals have not undergone rigorous
investigation by the F.D.A., and so you must not take their claims
as true or benecial” (Jackson-Cannady, 2017).
Cosmeceuticals and the Regulatory Environment
Cosmetics were not regulated at all until the 1930s (Liang and
Hartman, 1999; Newburger, 2009), but after 16 cases of blindness
were associated with Lash Lure aniline eyelash dye, Congress took
action to protect consumers regarding cosmetics use (Riordan,
2004). The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA) set the
regulatory infrastructure for cosmetics on the basis of prevailing
knowledge at that time. The FDCA was modied in 1960 by the
Color Additive Amendment and again in 1966 by the Federal Fair
Packaging and Labeling Act.
The criteria for evaluating cosmetics were intended to be very
similar to established benchmarks for gauging evidence-based
controlled clinical studies using large panels with blinded
use of accepted instrumental technology and proven
clinical-assessment methodologies,
well-chosen measurement parameters, and
statistical analysis of the results (Personal Care, 2011).
Still, Congress put more stringent controls on manufacture and pre-
paration of foods and drugs than on cosmetics (Newburger, 2009).
The FDA is charged with enforcing the FDCA in terms of
policing cosmetics that use labeling that is false or misleading
(Liang and Hartman, 1999). As noted, though, cosmeceuticals
represent a gray area between cosmetics and drugs because they
possess properties of both (Liang and Hartman, 1999; Rinaldi,
2008). The legal distinction between drugs and cosmetics is
that drugs cure, treat, mitigate, or prevent disease or aect the
structure or function of the body, whereas cosmetics do not have
these purposes.
Cosmeceuticals are not purely drugs or cosmetics. For example,
alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), an exfoliant that can remove the sur-
face layer of skin as a treatment for scars, wrinkles, and acne and to
lighten skin, is a cosmetics additive. Because removing skin could
be regarded as aecting body structure, AHA might be deemed
a drug per the FDA (Ringrow, 2014), but it is featured in cosmet-
ics advertising. AHA thus qualies as a cosmeceutical because it
exhibits properties of both cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.
AHA is certainly not the only instance of an additive with
cosmetics and pharmaceutical aspects that appears in cosmetics
advertisements. Other examples include apple stem-cell techno-
logy, KeraTriplex, Pro-Xylane, and docosahexaenoic acid. Lile
background explanation usually is provided to consumers who
view cosmetics advertisements that feature cosmeceuticals.
As Jane Leidtka, MD, of the FDA stated, “There is no one size ts
all answer.…What if a skin product comes with the suggestion that
it can turn back the biological clock? Consumers might think these
products can be used as eectively. … If a skin cream says it works
beer than facelift [surgical procedure] … well, people would not
be geing facelifts [surgery] anymore.” (FDA, 2017).
As noted, however, lile research has been conducted on how
consumers perceive cosmeceutical claims. To address this gap in
understanding, the authors sought in this research to examine con-
sumers’ perceptions of these claims.
The authors used both content-analysis and cognitive-response
approaches to access consumer discernments about cosmeceut-
ical claims (See Figure 1). The authors employed content analysis
to examine the nature of cosmetics advertising claims, because it
can serve to derive inferences from claim text as well as provide
scientic description of claim content (Krippendro, 1980). Con-
tent analysis is useful in the context of both justication (to sup-
port existing theories) and discovery (to formulate new theories;
Kolbe and Burne, 1991). Content analysis also can be used to
identify stimuli content, such as advertising claims in advert-
isements, and to establish classication typologies for grouping
stimuli (Torres, Sierra, and Heiser, 2007). (Please see Appendix A
for additional examples.)
The authors also used cognitive-response analysis (Belch, 1981;
Wright, 1973) to understand how and why consumers respond to
cosmeceutical claims. Cognitive-response analysis is qualitative in
nature (See Figure 1). Use of both methods enabled the authors
to classify and understand types and paerns of cosmeceutical
claims and consumers’ perceptions of such claims. The authors
next describe the study’s content-analysis typologies and how
they developed and implemented these typologies to examine the
nature of the cosmeceutical claims that they identied in a sample
of cosmetics-product advertisements.
Content-Analysis Typology Development And Cognitive-
Response Description
According to the Journal of Health Communication, direct-to-con-
sumer pharmaceutical advertising devotes more space to describ-
ing product benets than to informing consumers of risks aliated
with product use (Shaw, 2011). Supporting this discrepancy in
how consumers are informed by pharmaceutical advertisements
is evidence on the types of disciplinary action taken by the FDA
during 1997–2006 regarding this product category (Donahue, Cer-
vasco, and Rosenthal, 2007). During this period, nearly 84 percent
of the FDA’s regulatory leers for direct-to-consumer pharmaceut-
ical advertising cited advertisements and companies for
Content Analysis
•Useful to
•Large sample
of ads
in nature
Cognitive Response
•Large sample
of respondents
Qualitative in
of the results
of the content
analysis and
Figure 1 Content Analysis and Cognitive Response
minimizing risks (e.g., omiing information about side eects),
exaggerating a drug’s eectiveness, or
making unsubstantiated claims of superiority over other drugs.
The current authors therefore adapted an initial typology for
the content analysis (See Table 1) from previous work (Carlson
et al., 1993). The original authors designed the typology to identify
the potentially misleading and deceptive aspects of cosmeceutical
claims the authors identied. Those researchers developed this
typology from multiple sources (Aaker and Myers, 1987; Gardner
and Leonard, 1990) that indicated types of misleading or deceptive
properties that might be exhibited in environmental advertising
claims (the focus of the study by Carlson et al., 1993).
This same typology also was used in another study in a sustain-
ability-claim context (Cummins et al., 2014). Both studies (Carlson
et al., 1993; Cummins et al., 2014) identied advertisement claims,
which then were coded as lies, as omissions, or as being vague.
Judges in both studies also were allowed to code claims as “accept-
able” to avoid the implication that every claim had to be assigned
to a “misleading/deceptive” category.
The current authors used the same categories in this invest-
igation (See Table 1). The “misleading/deceptive” classication
typology allowed this study’s judges to assign reasons why they
believed a particular cosmeceutical claim did not provide the
information needed for consumers to make an informed decision
about such products.
The second typology used in the content analysis centered on
scientic-claim classications and was derived through exam-
ination of a sample of cosmetics advertisements (dierent than
the advertisements used in this study). The goal of this typo-
logy development was to identify a set of mutually exclusive
and collectively exhaustive categories that reected the nature
or type of the claims the authors identied (a procedure sim-
ilar to the one used by Carlson et al., 1993). The authors then
used these categories to classify a dierent sample of claims to
ascertain whether the categories in the second typology could
encompass and describe adequately the scope of the claims
As a result of this process, another category, “performance,” was
added to the claim-type schema typology. This procedure resulted
in explicating the range of claim types that existed in the cosmetics
advertisement sample. Finally, an additional category, “combina-
tion,” was added for claims that might represent characteristics of
more than one of the typology category designations.
Claims that were coded as combinations (i.e., representing mul-
tiple categories) ultimately were considered to be indicative of
coders’ inability to designate a claim as best representing a single
typology category, however, and these claims were deleted in
the nal analysis. Deleting claims assigned to the combination
category also has been done in prior content-analysis studies (e.g.,
Table 1 Misleading/Deceptive Typology
Misleading Types Description
Vague/ambiguous The claim is overly vague or ambiguous. It contains
a phrase or statement that is too broad to have a
clear meaning.
Omission The claim omits important information necessary to
evaluate its truthfulness or reasonableness.
False/outright lie The claim is inaccurate or a fabrication.
Acceptable The claim is classified as being acceptable.
Table 2 Cosmeceutical Claim Typology
Claims Type Description Examples
Image-based claim The claim associates a general statement that results in a broad-
based scientific/cosmeceutical image.
“Dermatologist tested”
Process/technology-based claim The claim deals with technology or the production process. Apple stem cell technology”
“IntuiGen technology”
Formula-based claim: natural The claim is natural-ingredient based. “100% pure marine collagen”
“Vitamin A and E”
Argan oil”
Formula-based claim: artificial The claim is artificial-ingredient based. Adipofill’in complex”
Performance-based claim The claim involves scientific results based on research. “Based on our research conducted by
dermatologists, 80 percent of women felt winkles
were reduced within four weeks.”
Combination The claim appears to have multiple facets (as shown above).
Note: Assignment to the “combination” category was indicative of coders’ inability to designate a claim as best representing a single category.
Carlson et al., 1993; Cummins et al., 2014). (The complete list of
categories is presented in Table 2.)
Advertisement and Claim Sample
On the basis of a research report from Advertising Age (2014), the
authors chose ve fashion-magazine titles from 2015 that con-
tained the most advertisement pages: InStyle, Elle, Harper’s Bazaar,
Vogue, and W. For each magazine title, the authors selected four
issues: March, June–July, September–October, and December,
to represent each of the four seasons (some magazines combine
two issues into one for June and July; Ford, Voli, Honeycu, and
Casey, 1998).
This was a convenience sample; the authors did not intend to
generalize from these results to all magazines (Ford et al., 1998),
but they believed that the sampling frame was adequate for their
research purposes. Their intention was to minimize seasonality
problems (Ford et al., 1998) that could have resulted from sampling
magazines representing only a single season. To enhance readabil-
ity, the authors used only one-page advertisements and eliminated
duplicate advertisements (Alden, Mukherjee, and Hoyer, 2000).
This process resulted in 140 advertisements, which were used in
the content analysis.
The authors then identied (with assistance from health-care
professionals) the claims depicted in each advertisement (i.e.,
claims that were highlighted physically in each advertisement).
The authors consulted with a plastic surgeon and her sta in the
southeast region of the United States for assistance in pinpointing
the claims appearing in each of the 140 advertisements. When there
were questions regarding the ingredients or process/technology
expressed in an advertisement claim, the authors asked the health-
care professionals to explain the medical use and meaning of the
terms appearing in the advertisement. The highlighting procedure
ensured that the judges focused on the claim as the unit of analysis
rather than the entire advertisement (Carlson et al., 1993). As a res-
ult of this process, a total of 191 claims (See Table 3) were identied
for the study.
Content Analysis and Coding Procedure
Three female judges then classied the claims—because cosmetics
advertisements tend to target women—according to the chosen
typologies (depicted in Tables 1 and 2). The authors selected judges
with diverse backgrounds to ensure that their views reected
those of the general consumer population (female) as opposed to
choosing judges with only backgrounds in cosmetics. One judge
was a small business owner in her late 20s. The second judge
was a graduate student at a comprehensive university, and the
third judge was a consultant in her early 30s. The diverse prior
experience and current occupations of the judges could have res-
ulted in tendencies to evaluate and code the claims dierently,
although the interrater reliability coecients for each typology
indicated that this was not the case (see the Results section).
The coding process followed procedures similar to prior con-
tent analyses that focused on environmental advertising claims
(Carlson et al., 1993; Cummins et al., 2014). Judges were briefed on
cosmetics advertising, provided an opportunity to ask questions
about the coding process, and given verbal and wrien descrip-
tions and training for each typology prior to evaluating the claims.
Judge training included provision of a codebook that categorized
and explicated all categories in both typologies.
If a claim clearly stated ingredients such as botanicals, mar-
ine extracts, or vitamins, for example, the coders were instructed
to categorize it as “natural,” according to the determined typo-
logy (See Table 2). Similarly, if a claim indicated chemical com-
pounds, such as retinol and Retin A, that claim was to be classied
as “articial,” according to the typology. Likewise, if the claim
emphasized a certain technology, how the product was made, or
its manufacturing process, the claim was to be categorized as “pro-
cess/technology-based” (See Table 2). Finally, judges were encour-
aged to detail in writing their coding experience and any concerns
or reasoning that they might have used in the coding process that
inuenced their categorizations.
To ensure further that judges understood the coding process and
categories for both typologies in the content analysis, the authors
also conducted three rounds of pretests using 20–30 claims in each
pretest. In the pretests, judges were given the entire advertise-
ment, with claims highlighted, and asked to classify the claims into
the typology categories (See Tables 1 and 2) on the basis of their
assessments of the claims. The interjudge reliabilities (Perreault
and Leigh, 1989) for each of the typologies in each of the pretests
were all above .90, which indicated that judges were able to dis-
tinguish among the various types of categories in each typology
in the pretests.
Table 3 Categories of Products in Advertisements in the
Content Analysis
Product Category No. Claims %
Facial skin care 91 47.6
Body product 14 7.3
Hair product 53 27.7
Makeup 23 12.0
Nail product 1 0.5
Other 9 4.7
Total 191 100
Cognitive-Response Analysis and Coding Procedure
The authors used the cognitive-response analysis to study how
a sample of actual consumers of cosmetics products respon-
ded to cosmeceutical claims (Belch, 1981; Wright, 1973). They
followed the content analysis with the cognitive-response ana-
lysis to understand further why claims were being assigned to
categories such as “lies,” “omissions,” or “vague” (See Table 1).
Cognitive-response analysis has been used widely by advertising
practitioners and can be utilized for examining consumers’ cog-
nitive processing of advertising messages (Belch and Belch, 2003).
One purpose for examining cognitive responses is to under-
stand consumers’ reactions to media-based communications,
such as why consumers accept or reject advertisement messages
(Sternthal, Dholakia, and Leavi, 1978). Message rejection can
occur when the communication triggers receivers to generate
counterarguments to message contents, which can engender
opposition to a communicator’s advocacy position (Sternthal
et al., 1978). Receiver-generated cognitive responses to an advert-
ising message may reect and be predictive of the persuas-
ive power of claims appearing in an advertisement (Sternthal
et al., 1978).
To generate advertisements and claims for the cognitive-re-
sponse study, the authors chose advertisements from the con-
tent-analysis portion of their research that contained two
examples of each type of claim in the typology (depicted in
Table 2). They chose two advertisements depicting a formula-ar-
ticial claim, two advertisements depicting a formula–natural
claim, and so forth, for a total of 10 advertisements (See Table 2
and Appendix A). To ensure the appropriateness of these advert-
isement selections, the authors also asked the medical profession-
als used in the content analysis for their advice and assurance
about whether the claims in the 10 advertisements accurately
represented the ve categories from the content analysis (See
Table 2).
To minimize whatever influence brand familiarity might
have on consumers’ cognitive responses, the authors only chose
advertisements for well-known cosmetics brand names. The 10
advertisements for the cognitive-response study were selected
from the content-analysis advertisement sample. This process
was based on consumers’ familiarity with the brand names in the
10 advertisements as well as depiction of advertisement claims
representing the categories (See Table 2).
The authors chose Estée Lauder as an advertiser because it
has been an established company since 1946 and had net sales
in 2016 of $11.26 billion (Estée Lauder, 2017), which indicates
its popularity and familiarity among consumers. The brands
represented in the advertisement sample are sold in multiple
outlets accessible by typical middle-class U.S. consumers (e.g.,
Belk, Dillards).
Finally, the authors also tested familiarity of the brands using
a scale adapted from previous work (Simonin and Ruth, 1998).
They asked respondents to indicate how familiar they were with
the brands depicted in the 10 advertisements on a three-item
semantic-dierential scale (“not at all familiar” to “extremely
familiar,” “denitely do not recognize” to “denitely recognize,”
and “denitely have not heard of it before” to “denitely have
heard of it before”). Results revealed an average familiarity score
of 4.5 (out of 5.0) for the brands depicted in the 10 advertisements.
Because of the nature of the target market for these products
and because of the magazine titles from which the advertise-
ments were chosen, participants in the cognitive-response study
were 194 women who
were ages 21–34 years,
had at least two years of college, and
were from the southeast region of the United States.
These respondents were selected on the basis of the current
market for beauty products. By age 25 years, for example, women
may be using antiaging products, such as retinoid, as an aid in
preventing skin thinning and damage (Feiereisen, 2015; Gonzales,
2015). In addition, use of soft-tissue llers among 20–29-year-old
women exceeded 67,000 procedures in 2015 in the United States
(Harel, 2016). The generation of women who are the target-mar-
ket readers of the magazines in the current study therefore
appear to be using antiaging products.
Participants were shown the 10 selected advertisements online
through Qualtrics, with claims highlighted. The order of present-
ation of the advertisements was randomized. Participants were
asked to list any thoughts they had about the advertisements and
to record their thoughts (the survey protocol had a series of blank
boxes for respondents to record their cognitive responses). They
also were asked to label their aect and feelings about each of
their thoughts as negative, positive, or neutral.
Three female judges were recruited and trained to code the
cognitive-response data using the typology described below. The
rst judge was a current business student from a midsize uni-
versity in the southeast, the second was a graduate student at a
large university in the southwest, and the third was a real-estate
The typology the authors developed for the cognitive-response
portion of the study embraced four major categories of cognitive
responses: source derogations, source bolsters, support argu-
ments, and counterarguments (See Table 4; Belch, 1981; Wright,
1973). The authors conducted two pretests with 20 cognitive
responses generated by the respondents to gauge the ecacy of
these four categories. Each judge was asked to code these cognit-
ive-response messages per the dominant response category. If the
coders were unable to classify a response according to one of the
four categories, the authors asked them to explain their reasons
for their decision and suggested additional categories that might
resolve their coding problems.
This process resulted in the addition of two more categories to
the four cognitive-response classications.
These were
“message neutral,” which indicated that a response was related
to the message but was neither in support of nor against the
claim being made, and
“source neutral,” which reected responses that were related
to the source of the claim but were neither in support of nor
against the credibility of the source of the claims.
The judges coded all of the cognitive responses into the six
major cognitive-response categories (See Table 4). The authors
also allowed coders to place responses into an “other” category,
which included cognitions unrelated to the advertisement and
claims as well as thoughts about advertisement execution. These
judges also coded the cognitive responses according to the claim-
types typologies (depicted in Table 2).
Content-Analysis Results
The authors calculated an interjudge reliability coecient (Perr-
eault and Leigh, 1989) for the judges’ evaluation of advertisement
claims for each typology used in the content analysis, because this
statistic is sensitive to reliability dierences and is considered to
be superior to other methods. Reliability coecient scores of .85
and .91 were obtained for the misleading/deceptive and scientic
claim-type typologies, respectively, and were considered accept-
able for content analysis (Perreault and Leigh, 1989). As noted,
claims that had been assigned to multiple categories were dis-
carded from further analysis.
This article presents the key ndings and demonstrates a sum-
mary of dierences found across the categories of each typology in
the content analysis, χ2(15, N = 187) = 42.04, p = .001 (See Table 5).
In terms of the misleading/deceptiveness typology categories, the
analysis revealed that claims more often were classied as being
vague or as an omission. For instance, formula–natural claims ten-
ded to be classied as omissions. In addition, performance claims
were classied as omissions and as false.
Cosmeceutical claim types were identied most often as “natural
formula-based” and least often as “process/technology-based.”
Although natural formula-based claims can be vague or an omis-
sion, the ndings also indicated that some natural ingredients can
Table 4 Cognitive-Response Coding Typology
Coding Schema Definition Examples
Source derogation These thoughts derogate (are negative toward) the
credibility of the source of the claims.
Fake advertising (−)
Made up (−)
Selling (−)
Just a marketer’s way to separate a product from a competitor (−)
They put names for everything (−)
Just a marketing tool (−)
Source bolster These thoughts bolster (are positive toward) the
credibility of the source of the claims.
Smart advertising (+)
Adds some credibility (+)
They invented it (+)
Counterargument These thoughts are in support of the message of
the claims.
Stem cells sound scary (−)
Blatantly irresponsible use of percentages to make it appear that this was an
actual scientific test (−)
Might as well say, “Ninety percent of the developer’s closest friends felt
pressured into giving a positive review” (−)
Support argument These thoughts are counter, or against, the
message of the claims.
Providing statistics to support the product (+)
Sounds promising (+)
Sounds fascinating (+)
Sounds honest (+)
Source neutral These thoughts are neither in support nor
against the credibility of the source of the claims.
It’s theirs (=)
Legal owner (=)
Message neutral These thoughts are neither in support nor
against the message of the claims.
Is it just something stated (=)
Simplicity, convincing? Not sure (=)
Don’t really pay attention to it (=)
Note: + positive schema; – negative schema; = neutral schema
be deemed as acceptable. Articial ingredients seemed to be less
satisfactory, however, given that none of these claims was deemed
to be acceptable. Finally, performance-based claims were deemed
to be reective of an omission, which might have been due to a
lack of sucient information on how the research implied in the
claims was conducted.
To provide additional evidence on the accuracy and credibil-
ity of the claim assignments that were made according to the cat-
egories (as described in Tables 1 and 2), the authors conducted
another examination, this time using actual medical professionals
as judges. The authors’ primary emphasis was on gaining insights
into how actual consumers of cosmetics view cosmeceutical claims.
They conducted the supplementary analysis, however, because
some might argue that such respondents might not be capable of
assigning these claims to the categories because of an assumed
inability to understand the categories fully.
Prior literature provides a precedent for this approach. That is,
judges with more expertise also are used to assign claims to cat-
egories, and their results are then compared with those of actual
consumers of the products or claims being examined. One group
of researchers (Kangun, Carlson, and Grove, 1991), for example,
used two sets of judges (“expert” and “nonexpert”; see p. 50)
to assess the potential misleading/deceptive nature of environ-
mental advertising claims. The nonexpert judges represented
usual consumers of environmentally friendly products, whereas
the expert judges were “doctoral candidates in Environmental
Systems Engineering” (p. 50). As indicated above, the research-
ers included the “expert” judges to provide another perspective
on the credibility of trends identied in category assignments by
“nonexpert” judges.
When results from the two sets of judges were compared, both
groups of judges exhibited acceptable levels of interrater reliab-
ility (Kangun et al., 1991). In addition, 49 percent of the claims in
the study were classied by nonexpert judges as exhibiting a form
of misleading/deceptiveness, versus 37 percent as designated by
the expert judges. In terms of specic categories of misleading/
deceptiveness, expert and nonexpert judges classied more claims
as vague and as omissions rather than as lies (Kangun et al., 1991).
Because of this prior precedent-setting work, the authors
decided to make use of expert and nonexpert judges in this study
and to compare the results of the two groups. As implied above,
the purpose of this additional analysis was to address directly the
perspective that nonexpert consumers of cosmeceutical products
might not make as accurate assignments of claims to the categories
as would expert judges because of a lack of sucient background
and expertise to enable such categorizations.
The authors thus recruited four individuals with a medical back-
ground—two plastic surgeons, a pediatric resident, and a radiolo-
gist—to serve as expert judges. All were licensed physicians at the
time of this research. Realizing that these individuals’ discretion-
ary time was extremely limited, the authors asked them to classify
the 10 cosmeceutical claims used in the cognitive-response analysis
according to both the misleading/deceptiveness categories (See
Table 1) and the claim-type classications (See Table 2).
The authors learned from this additional analysis that claim-
type classications (See Table 2) made by the medical doctors (i.e.,
the “expert” judges) were almost perfectly reliable; three judges
agreed on the type of claim in every instance with no exceptions,
and the fourth doctor only disagreed in two instances with the
other three judges. In terms of the misleading/deceptiveness clas-
sications made by these expert judges (and somewhat similar to
the results in Table 5, which were based on classications made by
“nonexpert” cosmetics consumers), expert judges tended to clas-
sify claims as vague or as an omission (50 percent) or as acceptable
(50 percent) rather than as representing a falsehood or outright lie.
Cognitive-Response Results
Across the three judges in this analysis, typology reliabilities were
.89 for the cognitive-response typology and .93 for the claim-type
typology (Perreault and Leigh, 1989). Any nonclaim-related cog-
nitions were eliminated from the analysis. For instance, responses
such as, “I like the color,” or, “I like the layout,” were not included
Table 5 Claim Types × Misleading/Deceptive Type Cross-Tabulation
Claim Type Vague Omission False/Outright Lie Acceptable Total
Image-based claim 11 (31.4) 14 (40.0) 7 (20.0) 3 (8.6) 35 (100)
Process/technology-based claim 10 (58.8) 6 (35.3) 0 (0.0) 1 (5.9) 17 (100)
Formula-based claim: natural 15 (25.0) 34 (56.7) 0 (0.0) 11 (18.3) 60 (100)
Formula-based claim: artificial 11 (55.0) 8 (40.0) 1 (5.0) 0 (0.0) 20 (100)
Performance-based claim 3 (11.5) 15 (57.7) 6 (23.1) 2 (7.7) 26 (100)
Total 50 (31.6) 77 (48.7) 14 (8.9) 17 (10.7) 158 (100)
Note: Combinations were eliminated from this analysis. Percentages are listed in parentheses. χ2(24, N =197) = 204.90, p < .001.
in the analysis. Using a one-sample chi-square test, the authors
observed that the responses were not distributed equally among
the six categories—source derogations, source bolsters, support
arguments, counterarguments, source neutral, and message neutral
(p < .001).
The authors found that the plurality of cognitions toward image-
based claims were deemed to be “source bolsters” (44 percent; See
Table 6). Similarly, process/technology-based claims were per-
ceived as “source bolsters” (29.7 percent). In general, these two
categories of claims were perceived positively by the judges.
Additionally, natural formula-based claims were deemed as
“source bolsters” (60 percent) and support arguments (20.5 per-
cent). Articial-formula-based claims, conversely, generally were
perceived as negative by the respondents. These claims were clas-
sied as “source derogations” (21.5 percent) and “counterargu-
ments” (34.5 percent). Overall, more than half of the cognitions
associated with articial formulas were deemed to be oriented
negatively. Last, the authors found that the cognitions toward
performance claims primarily were perceived as “source bolsters”
(47.2 percent).
The authors then conducted a second analysis, which was based
on the positive, negative, or neutral nature of the cognitions (as
noted, the respondents were asked to label each of their cognit-
ive-response thoughts as being negative, positive, or neutral
to reect their aect and feelings about each of their thoughts).
Image-based claims tended to be seen as positive (50.9 percent),
and process claims were deemed to be negative (42.8 percent; See
Table 7). Natural-formula-based claims were perceived as posit-
ive (80.4 percent), and articial-formula claims were deemed to be
mostly negative (56.5 percent). The articial formula-based claims
received the most negative responses compared with other claim
categories. Last, performance claims tended to be rated as positive
(52.2 percent).
In general, the cognitive-response ndings provide a deeper
analysis of how cosmetics consumers in general (not just three
judges, as were used in the content-analysis part of the study) dis-
cern various types of claims in cosmetics advertising. The nd-
ing that respondents did not hold overly negative aitudes about
claims might have been due to the “omission” or “vague” (rather
than “lies”) nature of the claims, as per the content analysis.
The goal of this research was to delve more deeply into a specic
type of cosmetics advertising claim—cosmeceuticals—that hereto-
fore has not been subjected to the form of research scrutiny that the
authors aempted in these studies. The impetus for this research
arose from uncertainty about how these claims might be viewed by
cosmetics consumers and because the FDA, under whose author-
ity the supervision of cosmetics safety falls, has not assumed a
regulatory role regarding advertising-based cosmeceutical claims
(Liang and Hartman, 1999). The FDA does not even acknowledge
the existence of this product category. The organization specic-
ally notes that the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act does not
“recognize any such category as ‘cosmeceuticals’” and, moreover,
Table 6 Claim Type × Cognitive Response Cross-Tabulation
Claim Type
Neutral Total
Image-based claim 111 (12.7) 383 (44.0) 65 (7.5) 129 (14.8) 104 (11.9) 79 (9.1) 871 (100)
Process/technology-based claim 149 (18.1) 245 (29.7) 41 (5.0) 209 (25.4) 121 (14.7) 59 (7.2) 824 (100)
Formula-based claim: natural 25 (3.1) 486 (60) 166 (20.5) 60 (7.4) 55 (6.8) 18 (2.2) 810 (100)
Formula-based claim: artificial 141 (21.5) 146 (22.3) 25 (3.8) 226 (34.5) 77 (11.8) 40 (6.1) 655 (100)
Performance-based claim 152 (23.8) 301 (47.2) 28 (4.4) 58 (9.1) 94 (14.7) 5 (0.8) 638 (100)
Note. Percentages are listed in parentheses. χ2(20, N = 3798) =777.4, p < .001.
Table 7 Claims Types × Affect Cross-Tabulation
Scientific Claim Types Positive Negative Neutral Total
Image-based claim 442 (50.9) 241 (27.7) 186 (21.4) 869 (100)
Process/technology-based claim 282 (34.2) 353 (42.8) 189 (22.9) 824 (100)
Formula-based claim: natural 652 (80.4) 87 (10.7) 72 (8.9) 811 (100)
Formula-based claim: artificial 167 (25.5) 370 (56.5) 118 (18) 655 (100)
Performance-based claim 334 (52.2) 204 (31.9) 102 (17.5) 640 (100)
Note: Percentages are listed in parentheses. χ2(12, N = 3799) = 597.68, p < .001.
that the “term ‘cosmeceuticals’ has no meaning under the law”
(FDA, 2002).
The authors hoped in this research to provide insight about cos-
meceutical claims, which included determining the frequency of
occurrence of these claims. If cosmeceutical claims only appear
rarely, if ever, in advertisements in media accessible to cosmetics
consumers, then one might argue that this is an area that requires
lile, if any, additional consideration. If such advertisement claims
do emerge frequently in sources used by cosmetics consumers,
however, then the next step might include determining the type
of claims being evidenced in cosmeceutical advertising. It might
also be helpful to assess the degree to which these claims may
be perceived as misleading/deceptive, to ascertain whether con-
sumer information needs are being met. The laer is particularly
important because even though consumers desire information to
aid decision making about cosmeceutical products (Meng and Pan,
2012), that information must be in a form that is useful and not
misleading or deceptive in content.
To address these issues and questions, the authors found a total
of 140 unique (nonduplicated) advertisements that depicted at least
one cosmeceutical claim, all from a single year (2015) in only ve
fashion magazines. The study’s rst conclusion consequently is
that cosmetics-product advertisements with cosmeceutical claims
are in evidence in a media source that is of interest to and used
by target-market consumers of these products (young women;
Meng and Pan, 2012). Advertisements about cosmetics featuring
cosmeceutical-based claims are not a mere chance occurrence or
an infrequent advertising phenomenon.
The authors then developed a typology of cosmeceutical advert-
ising claims (See Table 2) and applied this typology through con-
tent analysis to the cosmeceutical claims in the advertisements
gathered from the ve fashion magazines. The authors conducted
another content analysis on the same set of cosmeceutical claims,
this time using a misleading/deceptiveness typology. They then
merged the results of the two content analyses to pinpoint specic
types of cosmeceutical claims that might be more susceptible to
being deemed misleading/deceptive.
This blending of two content analyses was based on similar pro-
cedures used by other researchers (Carlson et al., 1993) in a study
that aempted to pinpoint specic types of environmental advert-
ising claims that might be more susceptible to being viewed as
misleading/deceptive. This portion of the study was intended to
determine whether cosmetics consumers are receiving the form
of information about cosmeceutical claims that they need (Meng
and Pan, 2012). This is to say, will this information more likely be
perceived as acceptable or as misleading/deceptive by consumers
of these products?
As indicated previously (See Table 5), cosmeceutical claims more
likely will be perceived as misleading/deceptive than as acceptable.
Misleading/deceptive claims are more prone to being deemed as
vague or as an omission than as false or as an outright lie. Ana-
lysis also revealed that formula–natural claims (ones that claim a
natural ingredient is being used in the product, e.g., marine colla-
gen) and performance claims (ones that cite research-based pro-
duct-performance outcomes) more likely will be classied as an
omission or as vague. Claims classied as formula–articial were
classied exclusively into one of the misleading/deceptive categor-
ies, with none being deemed as acceptable.
These results based on the classications of actual consumers of
cosmetics products who served as judges were mirrored somewhat
by the input of expert judges, actual medical practitioners who
completely agreed on the assignments they made of the cosme-
ceutical claims to the specic claim-type categories. This similarity
of assignment classications by medical professionals thus lends
credibility to the claim-type categories as representing the scope of
what constitutes the types of cosmeceutical claims that are being
made. Also, similar to what was found for nonexpert judges, when
fault was identied, the expert judges deemed the decit as being
vague or an omission rather than a lie; expert judges found no
claims to be representative of false/outright lies. Finally, the expert
judges were, in general, as likely to perceive the claims as being
misleading/deceptive or as acceptable.
There was a discrepancy between the expert and the nonex-
pert judges regarding the comparative frequencies of misleading/
deceptive claim assignments they made. The authors aribute
this to the reality that cosmeceutical claims require a credence
level of interpretation—product-performance information whose
“value” never can be ascertained truly and accurately with con-
viction (Collier, 2012) by typical consumers of the products being
advertised. When individuals with sucient background and
expertise to assess the veracity of such claims—such as medical
doctors in this case—were asked to make these classications, it
is not surprising that the number of claims deemed misleading/
deceptive decreased.
Neither set of judges found these claims to be representative of
lies and falsehoods. Rather, claims that were deemed to be de-
cient or not acceptable by either group simply might need some
additional clarifying information or testimony to make them mean-
ingful enough to be useful decision-making aids for consumers.
The consumer’s perspective about cosmeceutical claims and
how that perspective is inuenced by claim presentation at the
credence level of interpretation also is substantiated by the study’s
cognitive-response ndings. The results indicate that certain
of these claims (process/technology-based claims and articial
formula-based claims) were receiving negative thought reactions,
source derogations, and counterarguments that had a negative
valence (See Tables 6 and 7). These claims might have used scienti-
c-based language that typical consumers, as opposed to experts,
found dicult to understand and judge as to their veracity and
truthfulness (See Table 2).
In addition to the conclusion that cosmeceutical claims were
being manifested, the authors also deduce that the information
content of some of these claims was not of the type that consumers
of these products want or need, especially those claims termed
formula–articial. The cosmetics industry should be providing
information that might lead to beer and more accurate decision
making about consuming cosmetics that are promoted with cosme-
ceutical claims. Instead, consumers of these products have access
to advertisement-based information that is vague and may be
omiing information necessary to aid consumer decision making,
at least to judges who represented cosmetics consumers.
The United States is one of only two countries (New Zealand is
the other) that allow direct-to-consumer advertising of pharma-
ceuticals (Ventola, 2011). The FDA does not recognize cosmeceut-
icals as a viable category. Some have argued that diculties are
encountered because the number of FDA sta members dedicated
to reviewing drug advertisements is small (Ventola, 2011).
In 2009, only 59 full-time FDA employees reportedly were
responsible for reviewing 71,759 industry submissions of pharma-
ceutical promotional material. FDA personnel consequently were
able to cope with only a fraction of these submissions. Similarly,
in 2008, only 35 percent of broadcast pharmaceutical materials
had been reviewed, because of sta shortages (Ventola, 2011).
Whether additional FDA sta coupled with FDA recognition of
cosmeceuticals as a legitimate product category might translate
into enhanced information value for consumers in cosmeceutical
claims remains to be seen.
In the United Kingdom, although advertising nonprescription
medicines to the public is permied, direct-to-consumer advertising
of prescription-only medicine has been prohibited strictly since 1994,
per the Advertising Act (Pharmaeld, 2017). In Germany, health-
care professional advice is not permied in direct-to-consumer
advertising. In Spain, direct-to-consumer advertising is allowed only
for medicines that treat very minor symptoms.
At present, the authors do not know whether disallowing dir-
ect-to-consumer advertising in virtually all other countries results
in beer or worse cosmeceutical advertising in these same locales.
In countries where direct-to-consumer advertising is banned, are
there fewer but more informative and more accurate cosmeceut-
ical claims as a result of this type of regulation? Further research
certainly could target such issues.
As in all studies, certain limitations may detract from the nd-
ings. For example, as discussed earlier, the authors selected ve
fashion magazines—InStyle, Elle, Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, and W.—
to generate the sample of cosmetics advertisements from which
cosmeceutical claims were identied. The magazine-selection
decision was based on the fact that these publications had the most
advertisement pages.
Online media kits suggest that audiences for some of these
magazines trend toward readers who are older than the respond-
ents in the cognitive-response study (194 women ages 21–34).
For example, 41.4 percent of InStyle readers are 35–54. For other
magazines utilized, however, there was more complete overlap
between the ages of the cognitive-response study respondents and
those of the magazine’s audience; 44 percent of Elle’s audience are
18–34. The authors acknowledge that the audiences of some of the
magazines they used do not correspond completely with the ages
of cognitive-response respondents. Evidence also indicates that
wrinkle prevention, including the use of retinol, is being sugges-
ted to women in their early 20s by a number of sources, including
health-care professionals (Levi, 2012; Mitchell, 2018; Russo, 2018;
Solomon, 2015).
The authors also recognize that cosmetics consumers might
not have sucient expertise to be capable completely of assign-
ing claims to the categories developed in this article. The authors
aempted to address this issue by incorporating another set
of judges with a medical background (four doctors), who also
assigned some of the claims in the study to these categories. The
results did not completely overlap, but, as noted, the diering
levels of expertise between the two sets of judges likely account
for these dierences, particularly given the credence level of inter-
pretation that is characteristic and required of most cosmeceutical
The authors agree with previous researchers (Kangun et al.,
1991) that asking nonexpert judges to assess claims that require
a certain level of prociency to understand can create a “demand
characteristic” (p. 53), whereby nonexpert judges become more
The cosmetics industry should be
providing information that might lead
to better and more accurate decision
making about consuming cosmetics that
are promoted with cosmeceutical claims.
judge sets did not coincide perfectly consequently might be an
The authors interpret the almost-perfect reliability displayed by
their expert judges in assigning claims to the claim-type categories
as evidence that the study might have encompassed the scope of
the cosmeceutical claim domain. Results across studies indicate
faults are characterized primarily in only two claim types. These
claims by and large are of the type that only would require some
additional information to aid consumer decision making.
Consumer decision making might be enhanced greatly by some
rather minor copy editing. When a cosmetics advertisement makes
example, the advertisement might follow that phrase with a short
   
presenting that terminology with no accompanying explanation.
(This was the case in one of the advertisements used in the cognit-
ive-response portion of this research, which was also evaluated by
the expert judges.)
The authors undertook this study to provide background
on a form of advertising claim used in the cosmetics industry
that might be a candidate for additional research scrutiny. They
hope that their results spur additional study on cosmeceutical
claims and perhaps encourage this industry to provide addi-
tional information in these claims to enhance informed consumer
decision making.
Jie G. foWLer is associate professor of marketing in the department of marketing and
international business at Valdosta State University, Valdosta, GA, where she mainly
teaches marketing research and promotion/advertising. Her work has been published in
the Journal of Macromarketing, Qualitative Market Research, and Journal of Business
Strategies, among others.
LeS CarLSon is the Nathan J. Gold Distinguished Professor of Marketing at the University
of Nebraska—Lincoln. His work has appeared in publications such as the Journal of
Consumer Research, Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, and Journal of
Advertising Research. His research interests are the marketing–public-policy interface.
HiMaDri roy CHauDHuri is a professor of marketing at Institute of Management
Technology, Ghaziabad, India. His research interests lie in conspicuous consumption
and transformative consumer research, subaltern consumption, and consumer
culture theory. His publications can be found in journals such as Qualitative Marketing
Research and Academy of Marketing Science Review, among others. He is currently
editing a book on marketization.
 and    . Upper Saddle
River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1987.
. 
     
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Appendix Sample advertisements (cosmeceutical claims are circled)
“Patented technology” “The newest modern formulas”
Figure A1 Image-Based Claim
Apple stem cell technology” “The first creme with IntuiGen Technology™”
Figure A2 Process/Technology-Based Claim
“Exclusive AVEENO ACTIVE NATURALS Oat has 5 vital
nutrients, naturally found in healthy skin”
“Hyaluronic acid (HA), naturally found in skin”
Figure A3 Formula-Based Claim: Natural Clean
Figure A4 Formula-Based Claim: Artificial Clean
“Resynchronize your skin’s appearance with
the only serum with ChronoLuxCB™”
“2% BHA liquid Salicylic Acid”
Figure A5 Performance-Based Claim
“Yet in clinical trials our serum was comparable
to a leadingprescription indgredient with a
53% improvement in evening skin tone”
“90% of women are convinced of its effectiveness”
... However, despite this growing behavioural tendency, many consumers only partially comprehend the information disclosed on the reverse side (Cummings, 2017). This is typical for the sections on a consumer good's package-back where technical jargon is used, such as nutrition panels for drinks (Drichoutis et al., 2006;Mandle et al., 2015) and ingredients lists for foods (Chambers et al., 2018), drugs and cosmetics (Fowler et al., 2019). Some may even find it challenging to process the on-pack content in sections that communicate in relatively plain language, such as precautionary allergen advice (Marchisotto et al., 2017). ...
... Processing fluency, or accessibility experience as referred to in various sources (e.g., Bullock et al., 2019), refers to people's affective judgements of how simple or difficult information processing is. Prior research in the contexts of food (Moore et al., 2018), energy-dense food and drink (Monteiro et al., 2018), and cosmetic products (Fowler et al., 2019) have indicated that consumers underutilise the ingredients information disclosed on product packages due to limited processing fluency (Todd & Variyam, 2008). Shulman et al. (2020) have shown that disclosing product information using field-specific terminology impedes consumers' processing fluency and causes metacognitive impairment. ...
Information on the back of packaged consumer goods, such as the ingredients list, is increasingly becoming a purchase-decision influencer in informed consumer markets. However, processing such content is mainly challenging due to metacognitive impairment caused by technical terminology use (e.g., Ascorbic Acid instead of Vitamin C), which affects the purchase decision-making process. Therefore, this study examines whether metaphorical-cue use (e.g., “dispatches an elite nano-coating force with heavy defensive armament” for a sunscreen— metaphor italicised) influences consumer product evaluations and purchase intentions by increasing their confidence in processing the ingredients information. Two experiments, using a 2 (metaphorical cue: yes, no) × 3 (packaged consumer good: food, drink, drug) between-subjects factorial design, recruited samples comprising student surrogates (N experiment 1 = 1326) and supermarket shoppers (N experiment 2 = 956). Ingredients panels containing metaphorical messages elevated consumers’ confidence in processing the ingredients information even when it was only partially understood. Such confidence yielded more favourable product evaluations and higher purchase intentions. These results show that supplementing the ingredients panel with metaphorical cues could turn this less-understood section into a seller by resolving consumers’ metacognitive impairment.
... People generally trust in scientists and the institution of science (Pew, 2019). Given the strong public trust in science, scientific language can be used as a tool to promote consumer products (Fowler, Carlson & Chaudhuri, 2019), health behaviors (Larsen et al., 2019), and public policies (Sánchez & Parrott, 2017). Although well-intentioned agents may use scientific language to provide citizens with valid information and advice, scientific jargon can also be used as a tool to obfuscate or mislead the public (Goldacre, 2010). ...
Full-text available
Pseudo-profound bullshit receptivity is the tendency to perceive meaning in important-sounding, nonsense statements. To understand how bullshit receptivity differs across domains, we develop a scale to measure scientific bullshit receptivity — the tendency to perceive truthfulness in nonsensical scientific statements. Across three studies (total N = 1,948), scientific bullshit receptivity was positively correlated with pseudo-profound bullshit receptivity. Both types of bullshit receptivity were positively correlated with belief in science, conservative political beliefs, and faith in intuition. However, compared to pseudo-profound bullshit receptivity, scientific bullshit receptivity was more strongly correlated with belief in science, and less strongly correlated with conservative political beliefs and faith in intuition. Finally, scientific literacy moderated the relationship the two types of bullshit receptivity; the correlation between the two types of receptivity was weaker for individuals scoring high in scientific literacy.
... Additionally, people are often influenced by misinformation that falls outside the realm of the pseudo-profound. For example, many people find superfluous scientific language to be appealing and persuasive (Fernandez-Duque et al., 2015), a phenomenon that some companies take advantage of by using scientific language when marketing consumer products (Fowler et al., 2019). ...
Full-text available
Across three studies (N = 659), we present evidence that engaging in explanatory reflection reduces receptivity to pseudo-profound bullshit but not scientific bullshit or fake news. Additionally, ratings for pseudo-profound and scientific bullshit attributed to authoritative sources were significantly inflated compared to bullshit from anonymous sources. These findings provide initial evidence that asking people to reflect on why they find certain statements meaningful (or not) helps reduce receptivity to some types of misinformation but not others. Additionally, the appeal of misleading claims spread by perceived experts may be largely immune to the putative benefits of interventions that rely solely on reflective thinking. Taken together, our results suggest that while encouraging the public to be more reflective can certainly be helpful as a general rule, the effectiveness of this strategy in reducing the persuasiveness of misleading or otherwise epistemically-suspect claims is limited by the type of claims being evaluated.
... Thus, oftentimes, it is the responsibility of the cosmetic brand to enhance consumer trust through advertising mechanisms. While previous studies have established a general mistrust in cosmetic advertising claims (e.g., Fowler et al., 2019;Fowler et al., 2015), there is a lack of research that seeks to understand the factors that can contribute to and enhance consumers' trust based on cosmetic advertisements. ...
Full-text available
Cosmetic brands typically seek growth opportunities and advertising in the international market. The objectives of this study are to test the differences in consumers’ trust responses based on advertising factors, the moderating role of ad appeal in this relationship, and the subsequent impact on consumers’ purchase behavior. Results show that Asian models are considered more trustworthy than Caucasian models in cosmetic advertisements; however, a US brand is considered more trustworthy when compared with an Asian brand. The impact of model ethnicity and brand origin on advertising trust differs based on levels of ad appeal.
Data analysis is playing an increasingly important role in the cross-border e-commerce platform in the cosmetics industry. Therefore, this paper proposes a cosmetics sales data classification method for the Japanese cross-border e-commerce platform based on big data. Taking the cosmetics sales data on the Japanese cross-border e-commerce platform as the research object, the development model of Japanese cross-border e-commerce and the connotation of cosmetics are expounded. Take targeted methods and measures; extract consumer purchase behavior characteristics on Japanese cross-border e-commerce platform, conduct in-depth analysis of customer relationship from three aspects: customer analysis, sales analysis and e-commerce platform analysis, and guide the behavior of maintaining customer relationship; Big data technology is used to predict the sales potential of cosmetics, determine the output according to the actual sales volume, and design the sales data classification model according to the characteristics of the data samples. Experimental results have classify the sales data, it is of great significance to the cosmetics sales of the e-commerce platform.
Purpose This study aims to examine the nonidentical impacts of identical panel information that discloses cosmetic ingredients by their English (i.e. low jargon; e.g. vitamin E) versus scientific names (i.e. high jargon; tocopherol instead) presented in short versus crowded panel on young consumers’ confidence in processing ingredients information and product judgements. In the same context, this study also explores the effects of declarative aids provided within the ingredients panel. Design/methodology/approach This study conducted four experiments by using a 2 (jargon: high, low) × 2 (ingredients list: short, long) between-subjects analysis of variance design. Findings Young consumers’ processing-confidence and product evaluations increase (decrease) when the panel is brief (crowded) and presents cosmetic ingredients in low (high) jargon (Experiments 1, 2). However, when it discloses a factual aid [i.e. ingredient functions; e.g. tocopherol (antioxidant)], confidence in processing even the high-jargon information, as well as product judgements, increases irrespective of the panel’s length (Experiment 3). Moreover, a fictitious aid (e.g. dryness-fighting “atomic robots”) stimulates the same effect and bolsters processing confidence and product evaluations irrespective of both jargon and panel’s length (Experiment 4). Originality/value Despite their heavy use of over-the-counter beauty/cosmetic products, little do we know how young consumers consult and use on-pack ingredients information provided in one format versus the other. To the best of the author’s knowledge, this study is the first experimental work investigating the cosmetics-consuming youth’s reactions to panel format and aids to processing.
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The FDA has only focused upon the physical safety of cosmetics and has ignored the significant reasonability of advertising claims. As such, the present article is intended to examine/ascertain the extent to which cosmetics claims contain deceptive content in fashion ads. Through a content analysis, the study reported herein revealed that cosmetics claims were not evenly distributed. To that end, the preponderance of the claims appeared to be described primarily by three categories (scientific, performance and subjective). The results also showed that more cosmetics claims were classified as deceptive than were deemed as acceptable. Close examination of these trends revealed that, for instance, most superiority claims were categorized as false, whereas scientific claims tended to be classified as vague or as omitting important information. Furthermore, performance claims were likely to be viewed as vague and endorsement claims were seen to be acceptable. The study concludes with practical and public policy suggestions that need to be addressed by advertisers and the FDA.
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The ability of consumer judges to identify sustainable messages in environmental advertising and the effect of these messages is explored. A content analysis provides insight into these judges’ perceptions of the depth of environmental advertising messages. An experiment investigates the influence of sustainable messages and includes collection of cognitive response data to evaluate the cognitive dimension of sustainability messages. Content analysis results suggest that sustainability messages may influence how environmental advertisements are perceived. These findings are supported by the cognitive response data, which shows cognitive differences across advertisements, and the experimental manipulation that suggests sustainable ads may be more involving to consumers.
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The authors report a content analysis that assessed gender role portrayals in advertisements from highest circulation Japanese magazines. They found that, although some indigenous gender stereotyping was evident, several traits previously associated with Japanese women (devoted, obliging, rattle-brained, superstitious, thorough) were associated with men. Also, men were not linked with certain stereotypical male traits (autocratic, blustery, forgiving, generous, severe). Other findings included women being shown in a positive way as often as men. In terms of common international stereotypes, women were not associated with low priced products or portrayed as being more deferential than men. However, women still were portrayed as more concerned with appearance and as younger than men, were not depicted as product authorities, and were shown more often in sexist than in nonsexist depictions.
The authors examine the growing and pervasive phenomenon of brand alliances as they affect consumers’ brand attitudes. The results of the main study (n = 350) and two replication studies (n = 150, n = 210) together demonstrate that (1) consumer attitudes toward the brand alliance influence subsequent impressions of each partner's brand (i.e., “spillover” effects), (2) brand familiarity moderates the strength of relations between constructs in a manner consistent with information integration and attitude accessibility theories, and (3) each partner brand is not necessarily affected equally by its participation in a particular alliance. These results represent a first, necessary step in understanding why and how a brand could be affected by “the company it keeps” in its brand alliance relationships.
The process of advertising influence is modeled in terms of an array of cognitive responses to the message, and a methodology for directly measuring these mediators is introduced. Research indicates that these variables are important mediators of attitudinal message acceptance, and that their relative weighting is affected by message modality and receiver involvement.
Persuasion in advertising generally refers to the advertisers’ ability to modify the (potential) consumers’ behaviour and move them finally to purchase the product. This paper analyses the persuasive function of scientific language in English advertising, an under-investigated area of research. It specifically explores how scientific language is used both in cosmetics leaflets and beauty firms’ websites. It examines the reasons for the displacement of such specialised terminology and the relevance of different scientific or scientific-related terms in the attainment of persuasion. The study has demonstrated that advertisers draw on traditional assumptions commonly held about science to present skin-care products as scientific. The work classifies the various uses of the specific terms employed and suggests that, contrary to what might be expected, the combination of the conceptual complexity and the Greco-Latin etymology of most of these terms is a guarantee of significant persuasion to the layperson.
As organizations increasingly target consumers who are concerned about the environment, the nature of their advertising becomes more of an issue. While much has been written about the problems associated with environmental advertising, this phenomenon has seldom been addressed systematically. This paper is intended to ascertain the extent to which environmental ads contain misleading and deceptive claims and to pose public policy recommendations concerning environmental advertising.